SYDNEY, May 12 (Reuters) - Lions flanker Kwagga Smith’s sensational long-range try helped his side secure a narrow 13-6 victory over the ACT Brumbies in a Super Rugby clash in Canberra on Friday.
The 23-year-old Smith, a former South African sevens player, crossed in the 54th minute and the individual effort proved decisive in a tightly contested encounter.
Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies added a penalty and a conversion before Andries Coetzee kicked a penalty after the fulltime hooter. The Brumbies’ only points came from a penalty in each half by flyhalf Wharenui Hawera.
The Lions’ victory cemented their status as favourites to clinch the Africa 2 conference having moved up to 46 competition points, 14 ahead of the Sharks, who play the Kings on Saturday.
With matches against the lowly Bulls, Kings and Sunwolves in their final four games, the Lions are now also strong contenders to top the overall standings, which would give them home advantage for the final should they get that far.
While the visitors had won nine of their previous 10 games, they struggled against a Brumbies side who have won just three times this season, but still lead the Australian conference on 19 points.
The Brumbies had scored what appeared to be the opening try in the sixth minute when winger James Dargaville crossed following slick work on the blindside from Scott Fardy.
The try, which had been awarded by referee Paul Williams, was ruled out by television official Ian Smith, who noticed a knock on by scrumhalf Joe Powell in the build up.
The mistake was typical of the home side’s first half, where they dominated possession and territory but little errors in execution ended any momentum they had built.
The Lions were also stifled by the defence of the home side, who spoiled a lot of their possession in the slippery conditions and slowed the speed of their ball.
Hawera’s 19th minute penalty provided the only points of the first half.
The Lions were again thwarted by the Brumbies defence before they pounced on a turnover inside their own half with Lionel Mapoe finding openside flanker Smith in midfield, about 65 metres out from the Brumbies line.
He then demonstrated the pace that helped the Blitzbokke to bronze in the sevens at the Rio Olympics last year as he outpaced four Brumbies defenders, including Hawera.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Toby Davis